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Number of Speakers: 25-30 million

Key Dialects: Northern Standard Bhojpuri, Southern Standard Bhojpuri, Western Standard Bhojpuri, and Nagpuria Bhojpuri. The Northern Standard dialect appears to be regarded as the standard and most prestigious dialect of the language.

Geographical Center: Bhojpuri is spoken in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and the Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh in India.

Bhojpuri is spoken in central eastern India by over 25 million speakers. Outside of India, it is spoken in Nepal, Mauritius, Guyana, Surinam, Fiji, and Trinidad and Tobago by roughly 2 million speakers. It is often referred to as the only Indian language spoken on all continents. Bhojpuri is sometimes regarded as a Hindi dialect. In fact, it is more accurate to treat Bhojpuri as comprising the mix of languages and dialects that include Urdu and Hindustani, all of which are mutually intelligible. Along with Magahi and Maithili, Bhojpuri is part of a group of languages known as the Bihari languages.

Bhojpuri is a Bihari Eastern Zone Indo Aryan-language of the Indo-Iranian group of the Indo-European language family. It is closely related to the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Magahi, Maithili, and Uriya.

Although a detailed study of Bhojpuri dialectal variation does not exist, a number of observations have been made in the literature. The four dialects are for the most part mutually intelligible. Variation is primarily confined to the lexical and phonological domains.

Bhojpuri is written in the Devanagari script, which is the script of Hindi, Marathi, and Nepali. The Devanagari script is a syllabary writing system and is written from left to right. There are a total of 43 syllable graphemes.

The Bhojpuri sound system is extensive. It consists of 34 consonant phonemes and 11 vowel phonemes, depending on the analysis. A number of retroflex articulations are attested. These sounds represent a defining genetic property of the Indo-Aryan languages. Vowel length and nasality are both contrastive in the language. A wide variety of dipthongs, geminates, double vowels, and consonant clusters are all attested. The syllable structure of the language is (C)V(V)(C)(C). Stress is non-phonemic and assignment of stress is determined by the syllable structure of a word. Main stress is placed either on the sole syllable of a monosyllabic word, on the penultimate syllable (if there is one), or on a heavy syllable closest to the word’s penultimate syllable. Three levels of pitch are employed: low, medium, and high. Low pitch coincides with unstressed syllables, medium pitch coincides with secondary stress, and high pitch correlates with primary stress.

Bhojpuri is an SOV language. Indirect objects precede direct objects, articles (determiners) and adjectives precede the nouns they modify, the head of a relative clause precedes its modifying clause, and postpositions are attested. Negation is achieved by means of a pre-verbal negative morpheme. Nouns inflect for gender (when animate) and number. Case marking is achieved by a variety of postpositions. Verbs inflect for mood (indicative, imperative, and optative), tense/aspect, number, gender, and person, all by means of affixation. In this way, Bhojpuri verbs bear subject agreement morphology. Verbs, however, do not also agree with their objects. These inflectional affixes are not always discrete. Instead, each verb ending represents a combination (fusion) of morphemes.

Bhojpuri is not an official language, but it is often used in government and politics. The language is also used in mass communication and as a second language by over one million people in Nepal.

Through Prakrit, Apabhramsha, and Hindi, Bhojpuri is a direct descendant of Sanskrit. Very little information relating to the history of the language exists either on-line or in the literature. Given its affinity with Hindi and Urdu, see the History section of the Hindi and Urdu profiles for insight into Bhojpuri’s history.

Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (Editor). 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth Edition. Dallas: SIL International.

Shukla, Shaligram. 1968. Bhojpuri Syntax. Ann Arbor, MI.: University Microfilms.

Shukla, Shaligram. 1981. Bhojpuri Grammar. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

Tiwari, Udai Narain. 1960. The Origin and Development of Bhojpuri. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society.

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